• Lara Flanagan

Bravery does not always wear tights and a cape

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

It is hard to believe that I have been sharing words and photos via my blog for almost 5 ½ years. I love the fact that I know people who have been with me since the very beginning. People who have seen all the various metamorphoses of me and My Notes From.. and who have laughed and cried with me during the wild rollercoaster ride that has been the last 5 ½ years.

I have cussed like a pirate, travelled near and far with my fellow adventurers, Archie and Rissie, my little loves. We fell in love with the people and place that is Italy, marched against Trump, and got lost in the jungles near Montezuma Falls with a rather erect tourist guide. I have openly dealt with a diagnosis and soul-destroying grief. I have shared my love of beautiful food and have created more recipes than I can remember.

A common theme of my words and photos is starting the day with something beautiful day after day after day. I am an Aussie through and through and I have a deep and abiding love for this place I call home.

Something that has amazed me is when people get in touch and tell me that I am brave. I have a genuine problem with the word brave. Brave in my head belongs to the world of flowing capes and well-fitting tights. Brave is a word that is associated with being fearless. I find it difficult to call myself brave because I am scared most of the time. Everything about life scares me. Ever since receiving a diagnosis, it doesn’t matter how strong, healthy or in control, I feel. Every twinge, every bad day, every weird patch on my skin makes me lie awake at night wondering if I didn’t do enough and if it is the beginning of the end. When I left my job in 2015 I was scared for almost 2 years that I would not be able to meet my mortgage and we would end up living in the back of our car.

I am terrified of losing someone I love as much as life itself as I don’t believe I could live through that again. When the kids head off on their bikes to an OJT job with their little backpacks filled with their ‘professional’ gear I whisper to myself, ‘please come home, please come home’. Every year the kids get their tests done I am a sweat of anxiety until their test results come back clear. From the moment their tests are done until we see their specialists I count the number of tumours they are predisposed to. It is like a painful itch that I have to be careful of in case I rip my skin to shreds.

When we headed off on our big adventure I was terrified the kids would be kidnapped by white slave traders in Costa Rica – I imagined the bastards coming in at night with their big souped-up boats and ripping the kids away from me. In America, I was terrified of us being gunned down by some random dude who thought that automatic weapons were his constitutional right. Funnily enough, nothing in Italy scared me apart from the fact I became terrified of the fact that I would never be that happy again.

This week Tiney-Boppa got inspected. I already had a weighbridge certificate from QLD but as per state government red tape bullshit, I had to go get a NSW one. I rang the place where I had to go and asked them what I needed to do. I also explained to the lovely girl that I had a deep and abiding fear of not only driving my caravan but reversing her, as I was not capable of reversing. She told me to park by the fence and all should be fine.

So I drove little Tiney-Boppa out to the construction place to get her weighed. Full disclosure here is that everything about this story is grossly exaggerated as what is a good story without a bit of exaggeration? So I drive into the place where the weighbridge is which is also home to a million trucks and multiple piles of gravel, dust, and sand. I park little pastel blue and white Tiney-Boppa by the fence and she is dwarfed by the trucks belching fumes and the air that is thick and hazy with the dust from the gravel piles. Right about then I was in a dark and twisted scene from Cars the Disney movie. I head to the office and the lovely lady says it is going to be tough as trucks take priority and I will need to wait for a gap and I will have to be quick.

I can do that I think, already working up a sweat. Eventually, she says, ok this is your break, get on the bridge, unhitch the car, let me weigh the van, and then reverse and hitch. I looked at her blankly. In my head, I was telling her that Archie was in control of that shit. I had never unhitched and hitched. I wasn’t sure what braking things I was meant to lift. She told me it was time to go so Tiney-Boppa and I revved our engine and took the long way around the office, building up speed and generating a big dust plume as I was well aware that I needed to take the corners wide. I suspected that a multitude of truckies were looking on and muttering to themselves, “why the fuck is she doing a big-arse loop to get that lollypop of a van on the effing weighbridge and why is she building up speed?”, I had this marvellous momentum going and then I realised that I needed to bloody brake before I overshot the weighbridge completely and had to do my artistic loop again.

We screeched to a halt and I told the dogs to keep calm. Yes, the dogs were in the car. I was sweating profusely and I got out in my pretend work boots that are my walking shoes. I pulled up my big girl britches and I unhitched, I unscrewed, I lowered the jockey wheel. I got the car away with a little squeal of dust. I then looked anxiously at the fat controller's window literally in a hunched over position with thumbs up waiting. She looked at me strangely and gave me a nod. I then got in the car and reversed with a flourish of speed. I got out of the car and realised I had completed overshot the tow ball and almost put a hole in the car. I drove forward again and reversed again. I lowered the jockey wheel and she was hitched! By then there were two trucks waiting and I felt like doing a bum dance up and down the weighbridge. I could have reenacted the Love Actually Scene at the airport I was that jubilant.

I got her weighbridge certificate that was funnily enough no different to the QLD one and drove home very slowly. I managed to get her through the two back gates and Tiney-Boppa was home. My body was aching and I was sweaty and stinky. I sat down on one of the chairs near Tiney’s tree and had a good sob. But I also felt, really really brave.

In the last two years, I have been in awe of the bravery of many. These people have not been in capes or tights though everyone wears a uniform of some description. Bravery is not universal, it is unique, it is inspiring, it is what makes you weak at the knees, but powers your thighs forward, even if it is only one tiny step at a time.

Bravery is the dusty yellow uniform that is worn by the RFS who head valiantly into walls of flame armed with nothing but the smell of an oily rag.

Bravery is the weary chopper pilot’s smile as he comes in for more water from a dam that is empty to fight a fire that is raging.

Bravery is the volunteer’s hands used to cut an uncountable number of sandwiches.

Bravery is showering in a bucket to save water that is undrinkable for a garden that is dust.

Bravery is the supermarket attendant who keeps going to work when supermarkets are employing security guards to deal with toilet paper rage.

Bravery is the nurse who dons a faceguard so she can work but sleeps in a hospital room as it is not safe for her family for her to return home.

Bravery is the ICU doctor who has worked 7 nights in a row who embraces a dying patient who did not have access to a ventilator.

Bravery is the every day. Bravery is not being fearless. Bravery is being so full of fear that it scares you so much that it takes your breath away but you take a step forward anyway.

Bravery is someone who is broken and bruised but who crawls out of bed battered, vowing to try again.

We are surrounded by brave angels. None of them wear capes and most of them would not be seen dead in tights.

So show up, start the day with something beautiful, believe in unicorns, give it your best shot, be forever hopeful, and be brave. Braver than you ever know. It doesn’t matter if you are scared, it just matters that you show up. Despite the pain, the dust, the ash, the dust, the flames, the dry dams, the relentless sun, despite it all, the strongest emotion we can feel is hope.

Bravery is all about being hopeful. We might be in a difficult situation, or it might be dangerous, it might even be painful, but we will overcome, we can be hopeful. Even if it just means saying, "well I didn't make it this time, but I will try again."

I have always loved it when people get in touch and tell me their stories. Some of those stories have made me laugh, some have made me cry. For me, they are the bravest people in the world. It doesn’t matter if you are scared, it just matters that you show up.

Bravery does not wear a cape or tights. Bravery just shows up. Bravery is not social media ready, bravery is entirely human, which is what is so beautiful about it. So yes I am brave and I am also surrounded by bravery. I am very, very blessed.

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